Thousands embrace Mandarin in Chile schools
SANTIAGO — Since learning Mandarin was formally introduced in Chile 12 years ago, more than 10,000 students have discovered the Chinese language, local daily El Mercurio reported on June 28.
Mandarin is taught at 16 city-run schools in five regions of the country these days, half of them in the southern region of Biobio, due to “a regional initiative to get closer to China”, says Karina Pina from the Education Ministry.
Apart from learning a language that many believe will be in increasing demand as China becomes a leading global power, studying Chinese has the added benefit of increasing students’ cognitive and artistic skills in other areas, says Pina.
“Constructing and understanding Chinese characters promotes a high degree of creativity in students, which expresses itself beyond the level of language,” she says. What’s more, students who study Chinese “achieve a degree of cultural openness”, and acquire “a broader vision of the world”.
In 2004, when Santiago hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, Chile and China signed an agreement to promote Chinese-language learning. The program kicked off in 2005 at three city schools, with the goal of having 100 Chileans speaking Chinese by 2010.
In 2016, 1,704 Chilean students enrolled in Mandarin classes. This year, China sent 18 professors to teach at schools around Chile. The professors are provided by Hanban, the department of China’s Education Ministry in charge of promoting Chinese as a second language abroad, through its network of Confucius Insti- tutes. Two operate in Chile.
Chile’s education ministry has established a program to certify students who have achieved a certain level of linguistic skill, making them eligible for scholarships in China.
The ministry aims to have the country’s secondary school students graduate with an intermediate level of Mandarin, “the level required to apply for the scholarships China’s government offers to study there”, says Pina.
Constructing and understanding Chinese characters promotes a high degree of creativity in students.” Karina Pina, from the Ministry of Education of Chile